cityhall3.jpgThe San Francisco Board of Supervisors tonight decided on a process on how to pick an interim mayor to replace Lt. Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, but shelved choosing the new mayor for at least two more weeks.

The supervisors spent hours tonight discussing the details of how to replace the mayor since, as board clerk Angela Calvillo pointed out at the start of the discussion, a specific procedure for succession is not addressed in the board’s rules.

Calvillo was directed last week by Board President David Chiu to develop a process for selecting a new mayor, and tonight, she laid out a procedure in which up to 11 nominees would be chosen and then voted on individually in order of submission.

If a nominee receives six or more votes – a majority of the 11-member board – then they will be chosen as the next mayor, regardless of whether there are more nominees who haven’t been voted on yet.

The board can select anyone in the San Francisco electorate, including one of its own, but board members are not allowed to vote for themselves. If supervisors are among the nominees, they have to be sequestered during the vote.

Supervisor Chris Daly originally argued against the idea of sequestering, saying it was the “incorrect thing to do to make sure the maximum number of San Francisco citizens are represented” in the process.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd sparred with Daly over details of the process, saying the clerk’s proposal ensured “complete impartiality.”

Daly eventually acquiesced, but not without using the salty language he is known for in the board chambers and calling the procedure a “clusterfuck.”

The board narrowly passed an amendment introduced by Daly that made some changes to the process proposed by the clerk, and then unanimously approved the process in a show of unity.

After about four hours of discussing and deciding on the process, the supervisors decided to postpone putting it to use until the next board meeting, scheduled for Dec. 7, three days after the 22nd anniversary of the last time the board had to pick a new mayor.

Dianne Feinstein was chosen in 1978 to replace George Moscone, who was fatally shot at City Hall along with Supervisor Harvey Milk.

Daly said, “We’re not coming out of that kind of tragedy, but (we’re) facing the crisis of our times,” given growing budget deficits and the depressed economy.

That was one point on which Elsbernd agreed.

“(This is) the most important vote we will ever cast as members of the Board of Supervisors,” he said.

The vote will technically be nonbinding since there will not be a vacancy until Jan. 3, when Newsom is expected to resign his position as mayor and take the lieutenant governor’s seat in Sacramento.

Under the city charter, the president of the Board of Supervisors, Chiu, becomes acting mayor following that vacancy. The board then has the option of appointing an interim mayor until the next election, which will be in November 2011.

The current board’s last meeting will be held on Jan. 4, and four new board members will take office on Jan. 8.

Newsom suggested last week that the new board members should have a role in selecting the interim mayor.

He said that although he intends to leave on Jan. 3, he could delay his resignation until the new board takes office to prevent the installation of a “radical mayor.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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